Immigration White Paper: Refugee Council response

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19 Dec 2018

Today (Wednesday 19 December) the Government published its much awaited Immigration White Paper entitled ‘The UK’s future skills-based immigration system’ which you can read here.

In a White Paper otherwise focussed on plans for Britain to leave the European Union, and correspondingly for an end of the free movement of EEA citizens, there are several important references to the issues that impact the work of the Refugee Council. These are outlined below.

The Refugee Council welcomes some of these, including the reiteration of the commitment to explore alternatives to detention, and the intention to reach agreement with EU member states to ensure unaccompanied children separated from family members within Europe can continue to be brought together. Unfortunately it has no such intention regarding separated children, recognised as refugees and promised a future in the UK,  whose family remains outside of Europe. This is a very disappointing statement, particularly as the same chapter (chapter 10) makes the claim that the government recognises the importance of family unity.  

For many years the Refugee Council and other bodies have campaigned for refugee family reunion rules to be amended given what we regard as their overly restrictive and even harmful nature. Current rules see families that have been torn apart by war and conflict kept apart in the UK, preventing people from being reunited with loved ones just when they need each other most. A Private Member’s Bill on this issue received support from across the political divide which you can read more about this here. it is a great shame that the Government has decided not to listen to Parliament on this issue.

We welcome the Government’s promise to listen carefully to the complex arguments around permitting people seeking asylum to find employment, and to consider the evidence on this issue. We hope that this promise is soon followed by a commitment to reinstate this right. You can read more about the campaign work in this area here.

Elsewhere, this White Paper makes a positive commitment to secure an ambitious and well-funded English language strategy to ensure that everyone in this country, especially those with newly recognised refugee status, are supported to speak the same language. We look forward to more detail on this and other measures government will take to ensure all refugees can integrate and flourish in the society that has granted them protection.

Responding to the White Paper, Dr Lisa Doyle, Director of Advocacy the Refugee Council, said: "It is deeply concerning that the Government has chosen to restate its commitment to an overly restrictive and harmful policy around refugee family reunion in this White Paper. Despite there being clear cross party support for changes to be made to current refugee family reunion rules, the Government continues to deprive child refugees of the right to grow up with their parents and siblings. This sets the UK apart from almost all other countries in Europe and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”